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Pook's China Doll

Pook's China Doll

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Pook's China Doll

190 pagine
3 ore
Dec 21, 2015


Pook’s adventures in the Royal Ramsami Navy—started in Pook Sahib and Pook’s Eastern Promise—continue here in Pook’s China Doll with a remarkable tale set on the notorious China Coast.

Pook and Honners sail East on board the Soonong under the harsh discipline of Commander Bray to carry out a secret mission of locating a spy. Honners uses the voyage to incease his collection of antiques and other objets d’art, before teaming with Pook to track down the spy—a beautiful woman whom Pook falls in love with.

We learn of the tough life at sea under Commander Bray’s ruthless domination, Honners’ attempt to desert in the guise of a Buddhist monk, and Pook’s terrifying experience in the mountains when trapped by a monster.

For the first time we enjoy a visit to the celebrated China Coast bar of Tsingtao Susie on the Hwang-Chai-Fong waterfront, where Pook’s interest in a hostess leads to alcoholic mayhem among the world’s toughest seamen.

Another hilarious logbook for seafarers and landlubbers alike.

Dec 21, 2015

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Anteprima del libro

Pook's China Doll - Peter Pook



Commander Sam Bray put his great arm round my waist and squeezed me tenderly. You all right, Peter? he asked softly.

I looked up into his pale blue eyes, trying to smile as if nothing had happened. Not too bad, Sam, considering you weigh nearly three hundred pounds.

Your uniform’s badly mussed up, boy.

So’s yours.

Not a soul must hear about this silly business, Peter. You could lose your commission—could even lose mine. And it must never happen again, understand? That’s an order.

As you say, Sam.

Don’t call me Sam in public, either; but we can still be good friends. Do you want any money?

Please don’t make it worse. Just leave me alone.

As I lay in the long grass Commander Bray stroked my yellow curls pensively. You’re not as pretty as you were, Peter—but your body’s not bad for a two hundred pound weakling.

Why did you get so passionate tonight, Sam?

The old story, I guess; booze and jealousy. You have the knack of goading a man into things he wouldn’t normally do. Not that I’m putting all the blame on you, Peter—only ninety per cent.

With surprising gentleness for such a powerful man Commander Bray pulled me to him till my head lay on his chest and his lips brushed my brow. I felt safe now in his huge arms, and a tear ran down my cheek to think how I had tantalised him at Rana’s party, regardless of the consequences. I had tried my best to fight him off but he had seemed hypnotized by me, so that in the end I had no option but to surrender to him. Besides, what chance had a mere lieutenant against his own Commanding Officer?

In the moonlight I slid my arms round his bull neck and sobbed unashamedly at the thought of what I had sunk to this night. Leave me now, Sam, I begged. I couldn’t go back and face the others after this. They all know why we’re out here in the garden together. Tell them I’ve gone back to the ship for duty watch.

Commander Bray held me tightly in his arms and gradually lifted me to my feet. Sure you’re all right, Peter? I’ve never seen you like this before. Did I hurt you too much?

I’ll be OK, Sam—just a broken heart, that’s all. I know you love Rana really, so I’ll pull out once and for all. I won’t bother you again, I promise.

We stood embraced in the tropical moonlight like lovers, Commander Bray supporting my sobbing body on his massive chest. Sorry to cry on you like a woman, Sam, but I think you realize what torture I’ve been through tonight.

Jealousy is a terrible thing, Peter, so I understand. Grab a cab back to ship and try to forget the whole wretched affair. You’re a good kid at heart but your own worst enemy.

Thanks, Sam. I’ll never forget tonight.

Tender as a woman Commander Bray slid his arm round my waist and assisted me down to the coast road where taxis passed all night, hugging me close so I did not stumble, even giving me his handkerchief to staunch my tears.

As he put me in a cab Commander Bray squeezed my hand as he had never done before. Be brave, Peter. It’s happened before in the navy and I don’t suppose it’ll never happen again.

Not between you and me though, I swear.

Commander Bray grinned suggestively. That’s entirely up to you, sweetheart.

Where, sahib? asked the Sikh driver of the old Ford tourer.


Anywhere long way, sahib. Somewhere much cheaper.

Shaggapore General Hospital then, please.

I sat back and felt my face with trembling hands, praying my nose had not been broken again. My left eye was closed and bun-shaped and on the left side of my head lay a kind of hot rissole that later the doctor was to identify as my ear. By experiment I discovered that my right inciser tooth was missing, and every time the cab ran over a pothole I temporarily blacked out. Bodily pain was impossible to pinpoint, being more in the nature of a vast pregnancy from the chest to the groin. Yet what worried me most was the fact that I was unable to raise my head. It lay lifeless on my chest, swaying in time with the cab like a pendulum, forcing me to stare at my trousers with one eye. I had gone to Rana’s party in my white naval uniform, yet I seemed to be returning dressed like an old-time soldier in red trousers.

You had quarrel with wife, sahib? the driver inquired as I handed him eight bloody rupees with my good hand.

No, with her husband, I gasped.

You her bleeding lover?

No, but he thought so—and turned me into a bleeding cripple. Sorry about the blood on your taxi.

I sorry for you, sahib. I can wash taxi and money.

Thanks. Here’s a rupee baksheesh—give it the ten-minute boil in the dhobi.

I lay on a table in the Casualty Ward like the victim of a hit-and-run driver, trying to explain to the doctor that I had merely been to a party—no, not the Fascist Party but a fun party with my friends, where we had played a parlour game called ‘I’ll kill you, you over-sexed punk.’

You obviously lost? Dr Sind inquired as he stitched my right brow back. Or is the other friend actually dead?

No, doctor, I won. I’m still alive—aren’t I?

We thought at first you had been mauled in the jungle by a savage beast, Lieutenant Pook.

Correct. By a talking tiger with three gold stripes.

You were fighting over a woman, I presume?

He was. I was merely fighting to stay conscious.

It must have been quite a party. For several days you will experience the odd sensation that your neck is paralysed—the medical reason being, of course, that it is in fact paralysed. We shall have to keep you here for a while under observation because you have fractured a lower rib, and you will require a kind of surgical bra to wear in your groin. My word, Lieutenant Pook, you Englishmen certainly know how to enjoy yourself at parties!

So did Rana. Dancing with her was quite an experience because she was wearing a crimson Ramsami dupa. This has been described as a cross between a saree and a kimono, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a cross between a silk curtain and three months suspended sentence. Almost any way I held Rana there was no dupa, and where there was I discovered slippery slits into which one’s hands slid automatically during the gyrations of the dance, like slippery trouser-pockets. For obvious reasons married women were not supposed to wear dupas, but Rana liked to wear it to demonstrate her obvious reasons.

I held Rana close to me solely in an effort to keep some of the dress on her, not daring to turn lest more silk fell down, rode up, parted down the middle, split round the waist—or fell off completely. Moreover, I clasped her by my forearms only so my hands could not become trapped in the slits. Above all I prayed she would not put her arms round my neck because this brought her clean out of the dupa, giving me the nightmare of seeing it lying in a tiny pile on the floor.

You are very cold tonight, Peter, she crooned into my ear.

Actually I’m sweating, dear—a cold sweat. I call it Bray fever. I was experiencing other physiological symptoms too but I wasn’t telling Rana. Fortunately the lights were low for mood music, so we could dance as passengers strap-hanging in a crowded tube-train. The natural rhythm of her body seemed to rise in waves from her knees, so that every part of her swayed independently, yet it amused me to think what a hopeless task she had if her intention was to arouse me—the old iron man who had sailed the world with Commander Bray. He and I had a gentleman’s agreement that if any slob laid a finger on Rana I would be done over.

Women think they have only to show a leg and give some man the come-on and they can treat him like putty. There are a few weaklings around, but for a heart-breaker like me, bound by the rigid code of the navy and my own Spartan discipline, it was slightly pathetic seeing Rana employ her feminine wiles on a rock. How naive can a girl get, I asked myself, when she fancies a tall young First Lieut. like me and believes she has a chance of penetrating emotional steel? The thought brought a tiny chuckle of contempt from my throat.

Why are you laughing, darling? Rana whispered, sliding her arms round my neck.

For heaven’s sake don’t put your arms round my neck! I hissed, almost carrying her to a darkened corner of the room lest her dupa fell off.

So, you naughty one, you wish to trap me in the dark, honey? Well, I shall not resist—after all, I am a woman.

But you don’t have to show everyone you are a woman—it stands out a mile. If Commander Bray sees . . .

Commander Bray has gone to the market for more scotch, darling. It is a long way, even by car.

I’ll go and meet him, Rana.

Am I so unattractive, Peter, that you prefer Sam? Come to me and dance the tango of love.

You’re beautiful, dear, but beauty is only skin-deep trouble. Last time you and I danced the tango of love Sam broke my nose.

Let me kiss it better for you, darling.

Rana kissed the organ that love had flattened, then caressed my face all over with half-open lips and closed eyes, swaying so close that momentarily I thought we were dancing in bed. I tried to cover her shoulders with her long black hair and pull some dupa up in front, hoping the other couples would ignore my efforts, yet even then I thought of Commander Bray and smiled to think how he could trust me completely while this poor girl did her best to tempt me with the lusts of the flesh. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned—except Bray—so I decided to let her down gently.

Remember how, in Pook Sahib, Bray’s suspicious mind was obsessed by this peculiar view that just because I appeared to be in the same bed as Rana there might be something between us—and this coming from a man of the world who had spent half his life sailing the Pacific from the Bering Strait to the Horn. I reprimanded him at the time that if this was all the confidence he reposed in his First Lieut. I would quit, but such was his jealous state of mind that he put the worst interpretation on my solution to the accommodation shortage in Shaggapore, hauled me out of bed and broke my nose. To add insult to injury he suggested we fight a duel over Rana at very close range, whereby I would have a rapier and he would have a Chekva thirty-eight, with its blue muzzle in my mouth. Then we would take one pace forward and fight to the death. Fortunately, Rana intervened to save Bray’s life, to which I sportingly agreed because the stretcher-bearers were waiting to carry me into hospital.

So Rana was barking up the wrong tree if she thought she could take advantage of me now I was slightly boozed up at her party. Bray was out and my girlfriend Tina was up-country visiting a sick relation—marvellous opportunity though it was—and I did not fancy Tina coming back to a sick me. Last time I had been discharged from hospital I tried to brief Tina about Bray’s unsympathetic attitude to the accommodation shortage, with the result I had to return to hospital to have my nose reset. Life in Ramsam was glamorously exciting but they still observed the law of the jungle in matters of the heart, such as coming up to you in the nightspots to say, Excuse me, sahib, but there’s a knife sticking out of your back.

I was now at my most sophisticated cool because Rana was standing on her toes on my toes so we could dance closer together, both arms round my neck, and her nose apparently in my ear. She smelt like a lotus garden, which welled up from her independent-suspension system as though she had been soaked in perfume overnight. Like most Ramsami girls her skin was oiled so smooth that my hands skidded round her waist as I groped to find some dupa silk to hold on to. Womanlike, she sensed my knees were buckling slightly and my major muscle-systems commenced to throb in time with the music, so, womanlike again, she slowly administered the kiss of life standing up.

I let her lead me in the slow tempo of the blues, and I had a vague sense of swaying almost imperceptibly backwards out of the room and onto the cool marble patio outside. A trumpet in the band sighed a mournful wail not unlike the Last Post, giving me this ridiculous sensation that my trousers were being slowly lowered like the Union Jack at sunset, and Commander Bray told me afterwards that as he walked up the steps from the car I was actually saluting the flag in Rana’s arms.

Commander Bray told me this as I lay in the hospital bed next to Honners. The most terrible news a naval officer can hear in wartime is that he has been drafted to sea, where the ships are floating on the collapsible ocean all ready to be sunk—and we were to sail under Commander Bray to the Far East, and the notorious China Coast in particular. Honners quite liked being a naval officer but what he objected to was this mania they had for sending you to sea and spoiling it all.

Boats are completely passé in modern war, Honners informed Bray authoritatively. If I were a cavalry officer I wouldn’t charge into battle on a blessed great horse waving a spear and shouting, ‘Fire your 85-millimetre artillery at me and see what good it does you, mate. Just try to stop me with your multi-barrel rocket barrage and see if I care.’ A naval officer’s place today is on land, here in Ramsam, at the bar of the Taj Hotel, all dressed up in white and gold to show the natives what a mighty maritime power we were, not disturbing the ocean’s ecology by drowning and poisoning the food chain, then polluting the sea-bed with rust.

"Report on board the Soonong at 4 a.m., sober, properly dressed, to take the first and second dog watch," Bray barked.

"4 a.m! Hells bells, man, that’s the middle of the night! Even the seagulls don’t stir till five. Why can’t I start at nine like office staff do? Talk about making the day endless. I come off watch at 8 a.m., try to kip down, and everyone screams, ‘Get

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